Mayhem in Brooklyn Heights History

BHB pal/Brooklyn Heights resident Elon Green writes about some of Brooklyn Heights’ dark “hidden” history over at the Awl.  

A few of the stories he tells of murder and mayhem were part of my original idea for a Brooklyn Heights murder tour.  Finding that idea to be a little too grim,  Homer Fink’s Hidden Brooklyn Heights Walking Tour was born.  A little lighter and fun,  the tour rides again this Saturday (9/3) at 11am.  Tickets and more information are here.


The Awl:  If the Heights seems like a neighborhood out of time, that is to some extent by design. Its landmark status, bestowed by Mayor Wagner’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965, limited new structures to the height of a four-story row house and ensured the Heights would always look a bit like “Sesame Street,” whose creators lived in—and, legend has it, drew inspiration from—the neighborhood. Population growth has been flat to slightly negative for a decade; turnover on Montague Street is confined to a new bank and another new bank; and the hipness factor is, if anything, negative as well.

There are rumors that t’was not always thus. My neighbor, a lovely, rascally George Carlin doppelgänger, insists the Hotel St. George was ground zero for orgies in the ’70s. If you believe Bob Dylan, Montague was once home to “music in the cafés at night/And revolution in the air.” (We still have a cafe. It’s called Tazza and the coffee is okay.) But by the time young Barack Obama moved here in the early ’80s, any wild stories he might have heard about the place were outdated. It’s been a quiet place for a long time.

That’s not to say, however, that a cloud of violence and brutality never descended on the Heights. It has, albeit in a small way. No neighborhood is immune to a deadly drizzle every now and then, and mine has had its share, particularly in the early years before it was absorbed into the greater New York leviathan. While the Heights couldn’t be confused with the Five Points—“chippies” and their “maudlin songs” were the big problem of 1893, says The New York Times—it saw a respectable amount of murder, mayhem and even a prize fight. Here are some of the stories that rocked the dailies then.

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  • Robert Perris

    I was once at a meeting where speakers had to sign in. The moderator called “Tony Mayhem,” at which point a long-time neighborhood resident stood and announced, “Manheim’s the name; mayhem’s the game.”